I’m one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason. There is, however, one aspect of my life that I struggle to comprehend – why certain members of my family choose not to know my son.
I know that it has more to do with me, my faults, and mistakes. I’m the excuse they use to completely ignore someone who doesn’t fit in to their world. A biracial, intellectually disabled family member doesn’t fit. Are they punishing me – my son – or themselves? Honestly, I feel sorry for them. They are missing out on all the love and life lessons that Josh has to offer.
But how do you explain this to someone?
How do you forgive your immediate family for pushing you, and your child, away?
And how do you go about creating “awareness” and trying to inspire acceptance among the general population with the nagging feeling that even your own family doesn’t get it?
As the children in my family grow up and I see pictures of them online it’s bitter-sweet to say the least. I can’t help thinking “Do you ever think about him? Do you even know he exists?”
As I plan for the future I have to accept that our support network is much smaller than one might think. I love my cousins – they’ve been a big part of my life and friends that I can count on. Josh has cousins that he will never know.
On the bright side, we have family that are not connected by blood. There are people who know Josh and choose to include him in their inner circles. These people accept him for who he is. They offer the unconditional love that one expects from family.
Which makes me realize that acceptance is a choice. Some people choose to love and receive love. Some people don’t. To some, value is measured by tangible things: labels and the ability to fit in. Those people will never change their minds about race, ability, sexuality, religion, politics – anything they think they know and have strong feelings about.
Others have the capacity to see beyond the exterior. They are willing to learn about things that may frighten them at first. Most of all, they are open to changing their perception.
It is those people I’m most grateful for.
I suppose the lesson that is to be learned from having a family like mine is that some people will love and accept you – some won’t. We cannot live our lives in pain because some people reject us – for whatever reason. We also have a choice. I choose to believe that there are more people out there, ones who, if given the opportunity, will see my son and others who have Down syndrome as people first. I choose to share my story, and as much of Josh’s as he will let me, with those who really see him. If your heart is open – if your mind is willing to accept that your previous beliefs may have been wrong – you will benefit immensely.
If you are one of those people – welcome to the family!